Kathleen McLaughlin
The Bulletin

Open less than three years, Roundabout Books is doing well enough that owner Cassie Clemans is thinking of ways to improve the store.

She could offer more selection in categories like books in translation, or provide more space for people to gather, Clemans said. But first, she has to pay the $120,000 balance remaining on her U.S. Small Business Administration loan.

Although she has seven more years to pay it off, Clemans wants to eliminate the store’s debt this year. She launched a fundraising campaign on Indiegogo promising that every donation will be matched by an anonymous supporter, plus extra loan payments by the store. Donors have given $6,500 toward the $40,000 goal so far.

“Personally, I live without debt,” Clemans said. “It really kind of always hangs on me when I have debt. The interest really bothers me when I’m watching margins really closely.”

Clemans and her husband eliminated their personal debts, apart from a mortgage, 10 years ago by using the methods espoused by personal finance author Dave Ramsey, she said.

“It is always refreshing to hear clients or prospects who recognize the power of not being weighed down by debt,” said Ashley Horner, vice president and SBA program administrator at Summit Bank.

Most small-business borrowers don’t pay off their loans until the end of a 10-year term, Horner said.

“It becomes almost a soul-searching moment,” she said.

Before business owners decide what to do next, Horner said, they should ask, “Does this business feed more than your pocketbook?”

Clemans is an avid reader and previously helped her husband run a solar electric business.

She spent a year in training with the American Booksellers Association, which helped her write a business plan, before opening the store in NorthWest Crossing.

The SBA loan, which paid for fixtures and opening inventory, was hard to come by, Clemans said. She matched the $150,000 loan with her own money.

Still, the national bank that she’d used in past businesses wouldn’t consider it. So she turned to Bank of the Cascades, a Bend-based bank that was acquired by First Interstate Bank of Montana.

“I probably wouldn’t have gotten the store open if it weren’t for them,” she said.

Roundabout Books isn’t a nonprofit, but Clemans said it’s supporting people in the community, whether they buy books or not, by providing a place to meet and hear authors.

“It’s kind of like a little neighborhood meeting place,” said Cloyd Robinson, a NorthWest Crossing resident who gave to the campaign.

Robinson said he loves the selection of books, which he buys for himself, and taking his grandchildren to readings in the kids’ corner.

Robinson also has run small businesses. He’s owned the Great Harvest Bread Co. downtown for more than 25 years.

“I would never have thought of trying to do something like that,” he said of Clemans’ Indiegogo campaign. “In this business climate we’re in, you have to try whatever you think might work.”

—Reporter: 541-617-7860, kmclaughlin@bendbulletin.com